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Balancing the roles of supermom

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Monique Rainford - HER HEALTH

Every morning as I leave home for work, I also leave a piece of my heart. At least, this is the feeling I get as I leave my young son at home. A feeling which, I believe, is shared by many mothers. I recently had a discussion with my female colleagues about balancing work and motherhood. The consensus in that small group was that balance was difficult, at best, and none of them claimed to have figured it out.

Another working mother recounted how tearful she was when her child was a baby as she had to leave home early in the morning before her child was awake and returned after her child was put to bed. But a friend once said that it was all a lie that women can't have it all, that is, a successful career and being a good wife and mother.

A working mother can experience a number of conflicts as she tries to be 'the perfect wife and mother' in the traditional sense and also compete with her male counterparts at work. However, are there real work-family conflicts and, if they exist, do they have adverse effects on the development of children or the stability of marriages?

A sigh of relief

Fortunately, working mothers can breathe a sigh of relief because research has consistently shown that children who are cared for by a competent person or persons (as in daycare) do not have any negative emotional, social or mental effects.

This research was even true for children younger than six years old. Additional research has also shown that employed women "report better physical and psychological health than women who are not employed". These women also feel more independent, financially. The women who appear to be most satisfied are women, who have the role of wife and mother and are employed but whose children are at school age or above.

Nevertheless, there are still challenges that women face with their multiple roles. Women who have limited control over their working hours, type of work, or women who have unsatisfactory arrangements for the care of their children, may experience more stress. This in turn may lead to anxiety and depression.

Ask for help

So how can you as a working mother achieve balance? You can have reasonable expectations of yourself and be honest with yourself about your limitations; enlist the help of your spouse or hire help, if possible, to assist with the domestic duties; dedicate quality time with your children and spouse but perhaps, just as importantly, dedicate time for activities that you enjoy. You should also exercise and relax.

You may not be 'superwoman' but you can still be a super wife and mother even if you have to work outside of the home.

Dr Monique Rainford is a consulting obstetrician and gynaecologist; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.